Why Yamaha MX 88 Is All In One Music Synthesizer
Since we have been through many of Yamaha’s digital pianos earlier too, we are sure that till know you are quite aware regarding the company’s rich legacy and performance record.
Be it the amazing sound quality or user-friendly or the well- constructed layout, all of them makes Yamaha stand apart and give it a distinct identity when compared to its competitors.
Now, coming to the MX- series of Yamaha, which is just a lighter version of the MOTIF workstations of Yamaha itself.
There are 3 variants of the MX-range commonly termed as MX 49, MX 61, MX 88.
The numbers attached with the variant name is regarding that how many keys are there on the keyboard.
The MX-88 was purposely designed for the emerging stage pianists and is certainly not a workstation.
With advancement in technology in the recent years, now we have the 64MB drives for internal storage, and its multiple sizes also facilitating varied-sampled sounds, capturing realistic playing.
And this is just a glimpse of the huge basket of the features that, this amazing range of Yamaha workstations have to offer you.
Furthermore, you can edit the sounds with great detailing if you wish to, although it is not at all an easy task like it is with the other fully-equipped workstation-keyboards.
By further analyzing the features of the keyboard, we shall make efforts to find out if it is actually worth the price?
Let’s first take a look at the specifications of the Yamaha MX-88:
Yamaha MX 88 specs
- GHS action
- 88 weighted keys
- 4 types of touch sensitivity
- Has 128 polyphony notes
- 1106 preset tones along with drum kits
- 128 user tones
- Sound technology- advanced wave memory
- Dual and split mode
- Effects like reverb, chorus, inserting effect and master EQ
- 208 rhythm patterns
- 999 arpeggio types
- Pitch bend wheel, modulation wheel. 4 assignable knobs
- Performance mode; 16 parts
- Transpose, master tuning, octave shift
- Connectivity options- USB to Host; USB to device; MIDI In/out; headphone jacks; sustain pedal jack; expression pedal; line out; audio In
- Approx. weight- 30.6lbs
Features Of The MX Series Keyboard
Design and Looks
There are two main groups of the series that is the compact synth-style group, consisting of the MX-49 and MX-61 and then the stage piano group that is the MX-88.
Talking about the portable segment, the look and design of the MX 49 & MX 61 are really appealing and they are also easily portable.
The layout is such that the controls are so comfortable to use and understand and evenly spaced.
There is the plastic chassis, along with matte finishing due to which the fingerprints don’t stick and it is actually good to see that.
Yet, when it comes to the exterior, the one of MX 88 is far more superior and has great aesthetics than the MX 49 or the MX 61 both of which gives a sense of cheap quality.
Due to the hollow look being delivered due to the plastic material, its durability is really a doubtful stuff.
Barring the cons, we shall discuss about the functions of the knobs as well as buttons of the keyboard that is just so cool similar to the one from the Yamaha MOTIF-series.
There is a feeling of tactility in everything, be it the knobs that exhibit some resistance and allows smooth functioning and the perfect click of the buttons.
Both the models MX49 and the MX61 are available in 3 colors- blue, black and white.
The black or white textures give a standard feel and the bright blue texture gives you a glimpse of the classical era, giving you a spark of nostalgia.
When it comes to the weighted MX-88 then there is a surge in its weight the reason being the GHS keyboard and that also enhances its design to a certain extent.
The chassis here also is of plastic but its surface has a superior feeling and the design of which is influenced by the premium and standard models like the Yamaha MODX or the Montage workstations.
The production caliber has been improvised by the Yamaha and there is good utilization of the increased weight as better- quality plastic material is used.
The chassis comes only in black finish, which is not a big issue but for sure brings in some disappointments.
Irrespective of all these facts, the MX-88 has a very professional and elegant look.
Being distinct from its lower versions, MX-88 is massive, with a depth of 15.9 inches, and 6.6 inches of height although then it becomes bulky and is difficult to shift or move.
The control features do not occupy much space of the forefront panel, wherein in my opinion, the anterior panel should have been made more compact, which would have reduced the keyboards size by a proper margin.
Yet, the positive stuff is the keyboard is yet light weighted and hence you can move it without much hindrance.
The layout of the keyboard is such that the controls have taken central space thereby leaving spaces towards left as well as right ends of the MX-88 keyboard, giving it a cleaner look.
The workstations from Yamaha have also been appreciated earlier too for their layout design and MX-88 also lives up that standard.
A little issue faced is regarding the allotment of new space to the pitch wheels along with mod wheels that is currently upwards at the left, earlier being towards the left part of the instrument.
The deduction from this change is that it was done with a motive to cut down the width of it, though in reality it is less intuitive than before.
Talking about the overall design of the instruments of the MX-range; the most favorite thing is that everything is just so clear cut and to the point on the keyboard.
The screen is small and simple in design nearly equivalent to 2-lines, but the fact is that it manages the work really so well without any complications.
Good thing is that, all the functions that you require are just in front of you in the form of the fore panel.
The categorization of the sounds is also done perfectly and is easily comprehensible and can also be immediately accessed through the button presses.
Be it if you wish to perform the transpose function on the keyboard or wish to add on in a string orchestra layer, there is a button assigned for all such functions for quick access.
Focusing on the data knob, this is to be used for quick scroll through the presets and go through the numerical settings.
Then there are the four manifold function knobs to meet your needs regarding the sound editing part.
Another amazing feature are the presence of the LED lights plus the backlit screen.
The benefit is that even if there is dim light in your surroundings then also you are aware of the functions that you are performing.
For once when you get well acquainted with the layout and the control panels, you will be able to use the MX-88 no less than a pro as the control features have been perfectly designed for the novice and pro musicians as well.
Keyboards of The MX Series Workstaton
As we are detailing every keyboard of the MX series we will discuss about the keys part in two section 1 for portable version keyboard MX 61 and MX 49 and one of the standard version MX 88.
Keys of MX 61 and MX 49 (Portable Version)
As the model name suggests, both the keyboards under this section have synth-pattern unweighted keyboard with 49 keys as well as 61 keys.
Which simply means that the keys of these keyboard lack weighted resistance that you may be expecting like the real piano.
Rather, they are slightly resistant to pressure, and that is what makes it suitable to add quick synth pads.
Giving honest review, the keys are not just for anyone or everyone; though the ones who have tried their fingers on the synthesizers are bound to have a craving for these keys.
In the recent years, Yamaha is specially well-recognized for the synth-style keys, and being habituated to use the weighted keys, shifting to them is a challenging task for ones like me.
But, no wonder with a bit of practice the proficiency on these keys will also increase and help in adapting them.
On a personal level, I would prefer the weighted keys of the MX-88.
Keys of Yamaha MX 88 Keyboard - Weighted Keys
MX-88 makes use of the GHS action, that is also present on the entry level or the mid- range pianos from Yamaha like the YDP-144 and P-125.
The keys are fully weighted and feels much like an acoustic piano.
Going by its name, the keys also feature the graded effects, meaning that the lower note keys will feel a bit heavier, as compared to the ones on higher notes, similar to that of an acoustic piano.
The plastic made white keys have a smooth texture while the black keys feature a matte feeling.
Continuing from the previous segment, the key problem of the Graded hammer standard action lies with the tactility feedback.
When one presses the keys, we get a stretchy feeling that in turn has a negative effect on the realism effect.
Keeping in view of it as a standard keyboard, there is complete usage of the Graded hammer action.
The pressure sensitivity allows you to reap the benefits of the touch responsive sound banks from the popular MOTIF series.
Talking about the keyboards overall weight, it’s good to see how well Yamaha has managed to place a weighted keyboard in a light weight package.
Though one may argue that it is heavier than the other keyboards in this range, yet there isn’t a second thought that the MX-88 is a better option when it comes to portable workstations.
Do The Sounds Worth The Price
The sounds of the MX range are derived from famous Yamaha workstation MOTIF XS which also includes sounds synthesized and sampled through the VCM technology.
The instrument has 999+ sounds and excellent top panel ensures smooth navigation through them.
Since, there is button assigned for each of the sound type, the switching in between the presets is an easy task.
As explained above the piano sounds are sampled from the legendry series of Motif irrespective of the fact that it was released way back 12 years prior.
The presence of the sampled renditions, that of the Yamaha Top concert grand CFX really impresses me.
The playability of the MX-88 is all the more enhanced due to the numerous velocity slabs that these keyboards have. This feature facilitates playing distinct specimens at various distinct intensities.
The level of nuance is not the same with the digital pianos of Yamaha, with the factors being;
- Fewer velocity layers
- No proper tuning of the reverbs in accordance with the pianos
On the whole, there is great satisfaction from the grand piano sounds.
The noteworthy factor of the MX- series is no doubt the electric pianos, for the ones who are using the MX-88 shall be well-acquainted with the fact that, they are actually so responsive, forget the variant you are dealing with.
All your needs are taken care of with the different variety of sound options, that also means that you have great opportunity to make sound selections.
Rather, if you are in search of something, that is strictly in accordance with the piano sounds, then the this series is not the one for you and you should better search for the other alternatives.
The excellence of the MX-series, lies in the instrument selection, that includes drumkits, synth and orchestra sounds.
The Restored Synth Sound
Initially if you could recollect, we had mentioned about the limitations regarding the sound revising possibilities, that loss is somewhat compensated for by the various options like the synth basses, leads and pads that have been superbly revived on the MX-88.
These sounds have been restored rather than being sampled.
The warmth of the VCM sounds are amazing, the algorithms are yet a secret, with guesses made such as saturation or the vivacious equalization.
The FM synths are also included in the segment, with them being the prime focus of this series.
Other Sound Samples
Although the piano sounds are superb, the rest of the samples also glorifies the series.
Guitars or the bases are enjoying provided if you are aware about simulation functions.
There are lots of variations in the quality of the instrumental sounds.
Thanks to the fact that, majority of the chorus sounds maintain the uniform pitch all throughout, which makes it a god category rather.
No wonder that among the 1000+ songs, there are some misses, yet keeping it apart, the MX-88 brings in increased satisfaction when it comes to selection part.
Lastly, the verdict is that the piano is great, with many awesome synth sounds those of which deliver so realistic sound, when played.
The effects types that the MX-88 contains basically are: Delay, Distortion, Different Tech Effect, Wah Effects, Tremelo to name only the few.
All of the above mentioned effect are similar to the ones present on the XS series of Motif and are of standard quality.
There are also distinct modes for the most of the effects, such as 9+ reverbs, delays, choruses and furthermore.
Next, we have tons of adaptable variables for the different effects, besides you are required to have the downloaded PDF file for detailed editing.
Further modification options are also present if one wishes to have them, while the ones who do not wish to engage in deep down settings, shall avail the benefits derived from the presets.
The insert effects initially seem difficult to operate, however you have the manual assignable knobs to your rescue, as you can allocate the knobs to whichever parameters you want among the effects present.
This component further embraces the Master EQ of 5 Band that have affects on the later effect stages of sound.
The presence of the EQ is of vital importance, because it helps in emphasizing and cleaning up the various frequencies in the sound. On an overall basis, the effects part is appreciable.
Polyphony - The MX-series has 128 note polyphony, covering the different genres of music.
The handling of the layers and modes are manageable due to the polyphony limit. There won’t be any sound cut offs present.
Feature Highlights of The MX 88 Workstation Keyboard
There are many features that the MX-88 has, and all the ones that you may expect out of any workstation keyboard.
The two modes present with the MX-88 are the layer and split modes.
The program setup for you to always have access over 2 sounds quite easily.
That means, while you are playing any single sound like the grand piano, meanwhile you may also have another sound, and even switch among them just with the single press of a button.
With the layer mode, you can play more than two sounds also at one go, with it being a key feature in almost all of the keyboards as well as the digital pianos.
What’s really incredible in MX series keyboard is that you can 16 layer songs together at once which no other keyboard offers.
Next is the split mode, with which you shall have distinct sounds played on both the sects of the instrument and the point of split is up to the user’s discretion.
The setting of the split points is also an easy task, you just need to press the split key and then press the key, where you would like the split to be.
If one is working with the 2-sound layers and splits, then the credit should be given to the UI design.
There are 208 rhythm moulds present in the MX-88 and they generally falls in the categories of Ochestral, Jazz, R&B, World, Electronic and so on.
The main feature of these rhythms is that they are synced with the tempo, and in order to have control over these rhythms, you are only required to operate with only the 2 play and stop buttons.
The actual concern regarding the section is about the few numbers of variations or fills, due to which there is monotony in the beat that has been played for the backdrop that too without any such changes.
It’s the same story when it comes to drum sounds, you get to hear the same sound each and every time, due to the absence of the real samples.
The MX Series offers amazing 999 arpeggiator styles.
Majority of them are in accordance to the presets, though you can also set up manually.
Many of the sounds of the MX-88 are equipped with a one standard part, and following the arpeggiated part and also a rhythm part that is functionable on demand.
It’s good if you play around the arpeggiator and if there are chances, as the sequences in here are so motivating and adds extra depth to the sound via layering.
And yes, do not miss to put the other exotic types to test.
A Wonderful DAW Control
A key selling point about Yamaha MX 88 and respective series is the ease of Digital audio workstation control.
There is a button assigned on the anterior panel to manage the your Workstation control and also highlight the button whenever it senses any changes from the previous point.
With this mode, the keyboards from this respective series, are no less than an extension for the studio.
The keyboard’s USB TO MIDI interface functions handle the DAW control part.
The software which runs flawlessly are Sonar X2, Logic ProX and Cubase 8.
The other features of the DAW control are specified with texts on the panel, thereby making the usage of the feature an easy- going task.
On the whole the integration of all these is quite impressive, as one shall also be able to load in the independent VST plugins with the help of the controls present on the panel.
The one disappointment over here is the absence of the controls for all the DAWs.
Audio Interface - USB
Almost all of the keyboards present in the market permits easy transfer of MIDI files via the USB connectivity.
It’s just the Yamaha and the Korg that have taken initiatives of including the audio interface feature too.
Its like if one shall boot up his DAW meanwhile keeping the Yamaha MX88 connected, one shall select the keyboard as their audio device, then the audio output of the Digital Workstation shall be sent immediately to the MX 88.
This feature is particularly handy when your performance consists only of these 2 devices.
This feature comes handy with almost all the DAW integration. Example you need any other VST sound you can simply upload it directly and hear the feedback via Audio Out even in the absence of additional audio connectors.
A great plus factor over here is that the feature is functionable irrespective of DAW.
As the keyboard is mainly and primarily designed for onstage purposes, there are almost all of the connectivity options that you may require.
Point to bear in mind is that there aren’t any in-built speakers present in the MX-88.
We have the stereo line out of 1/8” for connecting to the PA systems. It can also be used to connect to the interfaces when you need to record the stuff.
Then, there is also the headphone jack, in ¼” variant. For the ones who wish to use their not so regular headphone 1/8” they shall require an additional adapter.
Then you also have the jacks for the sustain as well as expression pedals present in it, though you do not get any supporting sustain pedal with this series.
Next, we have the Btype USB jack, allowing the connection of the MX-88 with the computer or other smart devices for Digital Audio Workstation control.
Again, there are the cables missing, though they are cheap if purchased online. In case you have plans to use your MX keyboard with the iPad or the iPhone, then you shall require a different adapter.
Then the final connectivity option is the AUX In, which can be used to connect the audio gear with the MX-88.
There is a dedicated app for FM synthesizer available free of cost, in case you aren’t even the owner of the keyboard, once you connect it to the MX-49, MX-61, MX-88, the other features of the app also get unlocked, even the capacity to save the customized presets.
The FM synthesis will be digital of course, so the sounds are authentic and covers almost all of the bases.
The best part is that to use all of these features, you need not necessarily own a keyboard.
Hence, this keyboard is a must check for you to make, if you are in search of a synth action keyboard to play and practice with.
Vycro MX - Dedicated App For MX Series
It is a tertiary app structured to function specially with Yamaha MX 88 and 61 keyboards assisted by the Windows and also the MAC.
The app gives you an increased graphic user interface and also can be connected directly via USB. For the ones, who hope for controls, should give it a try for once.
Yamaha MX 61 VS MX 88
|Yamaha MX 88||Yamaha MX 61|
|Sound Engine Type(s)||Motif Sound Engine||Motif Sound Engine|
|Number of Keys||88||61|
|Type of Keys||Fully weighted Graded Hammer Standard||Synth, touch sensitive|
|Other Controllers||Pitchbend, Mod Wheel||Pitchbend, Mod Wheel|
|Polyphony||128 notes, 16-part multitimbral||128|
|Number of Presets||Over 1000 voices||1,106 voices, 61 drum kits; 128 user voices, 8 user drum kits|
|Effects Types||VCM vintage effects & processing||Phaser, Flanger, Wah, Vintage modeling, Reverb, Delay (expandable via iOS FM app)|
|Sequencer||208 patterns, SMF Format 0 (playback only)|
|Audio Recording||2-track stereo|
|Audio Inputs||1 x 1/8" (aux in)||1 x 1/8" (aux in)|
|Audio Outputs||2 x 1/4" (stereo out)||2 x 1/4" (main out)|
|Headphones||1 x 1/4"||1 x 1/4"|
|USB||1 x Type A, 1 x Type B||1 x Type B, 1 x Type A|
|Pedal Inputs||2 x 1/4" (sustain, foot controller)||2 x 1/4" (sustain, controller)|
|Expansion||USB Flash Drive sounds (WAV, AIFF, SMF)|
|Software||Cubase AI included (download code), Cubasis LE iOS app (unlocks), FM Essential Synth iOS app (unlocks)||Cubase AI included, FM Essential iOS synth app|
|Power Supply||12V DC power supply (included)|
|Weight||30.6 lbs.||10.6 lbs.|
My Experience With Yamaha MX 88 Workstation Keyboard
Reasons To Buy
Reasons To Avoid
It’s great to perform with the MX-88, as the keyboard gives a premium feel and also facilitates the fuller utilization of the sounds.
The instrument is inspiring, and in my opinion if you wish to own a keyboard that is affordable and is also versatile then definitely opt for this keyboard.
This is an amazing keyboard that has many strong points at the entry level in the workstations segment.
There are non-weighted keys in this keyboard and the synth function, pitch/mod wheels that makes their usage easier.
Since there are 3 variants of this keyboard, I personally would prefer to go with the MX-88, that has some of the basic like you don’t require an external or additional audio interface with this series of workstations.
On the whole keeping in view, all of the pros and cons of the keyboard, yet this is a good choice to make and as an aspiring pianist you would surely love to operate the functions of this keyboard and playing it.